South Africa is in the middle of the long and difficult transition towards a competitive, skills-based economy. Our most pressing social problem during this transition is unemployment.
South Africa must combat unemployment more directly: in order to attract more job-creating investment, it must create more jobs and more opportunities for gainful self-employment.
Labour-intensive public works (LIPW) on a large scale could contribute greatly to alleviating this problem. Genuinely labour-intensive public works programmes function as a safety net to catch people who are adversely affected by structural changes in the SA economy.
If LIPW programmes are to grow to a significant scale, such that they bring the unemployment rate down by 5% or more, they will need long-term involvement from the private sector in the form of public-private partnerships.
A public-private partnership for large-scale LIPW programmes is a very important part of the package of reforms needed to ensure that an ever-increasing proportion of South Africans are able to enjoy the benefits of increasingly effective and ‘normal’ participation in the economy.